My oldest daughter, Eloise has struggled with sensory issues for the duration of her life. As an infant, we weren’t able to pinpoint why she was so “different” than any other baby we’ve known, but there were little quirks about her that just weren’t right. Little things would send her into a full blown meltdown, and we couldn’t figure out why. Despite the pediatrician’s constant advice that she’ll “grow out of it,” I continued to advocate for our sweet Lou and really pushed to figure out what’s going on.
We started with occupational therapy (OT) as a result of Eloise’s constant struggle with sensory development. Loud noises, certain textures, sensitivity to sound, certain tastes… all would send her into a panic. As our girl began to grow her needs began to increase, and we began to learn more about her little quirks. She attended occupational therapy for a few months, but it didn’t seem to be helping her problem. We noticed an increase in meltdowns and felt as though there was something more occurring. OT seemed to exacerbate her problems. Maybe it wasn’t just anxiety with her senses, but full blown anxiety.
At the end of June, we decided to continue evaluating Eloise’s needs and take a different approach. I met with a play therapist at Ground Work Play Therapy in a nearby town. Child/adolescent therapy is in my professional background, so I knew play therapy would be a good fit for Eloise. She would be able to explore her mind and work through her struggles without pressure. She’d be able to utilize her creativity and imagination to develop various coping techniques. After meeting with the therapist, sure enough, Eloise was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Not only does she has those little sensory quirks, the poor girl is scared of her own shadow. The dark, storms, leaving my side, new people, loud noises, textures, you name it… the entire universe would set this poor girl into a tizzy. We immediately began play therapy in hopes to see some positive change.
I’m a social worker turned stay at home mom, so when I hear therapy, I immediately begin to review her treatment and therapist. I want the best for my child because in my mind, I’m the best. I say that with confidence. I was a hard working therapist that went the extra mile for my clients. I wanted to be certain they were getting the best care, and I want the same for Eloise. I continually want to advocate for my children and to be certain they are given the best chance at a great life. But whatever I’m doing at home with Eloise isn’t working, so it’s time to let someone else try. Besides, new perspectives are always good for little ones. For everyone. I was apprehensive about her new therapist. I wasn’t sure if she’d be a good fit or really understand Eloise’s personality. But I rolled with it, let my guard down, and gave it a try. After all, I’m sure I’ve had a client or two that was apprehensive of my style and needed time to warm up.
A few weeks passed and I hadn’t noticed much improvement. I continued to remind myself that the therapist needs time to build a relationship with Eloise prior to seeing any progress or even work on any issues at hand. Eloise was beginning to enjoy going to “ferapy” and playing with “Miss Tabifa” has become something she looks forward to. I encouraged my husband to take her to an appointment and provide Eloise’s therapist with his perspective. He sees her life differently than me and their interactions are also different. He obliged and came home exuberant with how well Eloise works towards change in therapy. I continued to be apprehensive.
It’s been 3 months since Eloise began play therapy, and I told myself I’d walk into her next appointment and unload my concerns on her therapist. I told myself I’d demand a new approach because I hadn’t seen a lick of change or work going into her sessions. I was still sleeping in Eloise’s bed, and Eloise was continuing to have many meltdowns on a daily basis. Our number one goal for Eloise is to have her sleeping independently, and I had been so incredibly tired of sharing a small bed with a toddler. I was exhausted and ready for the end or at least some sort of improvement. We walked into her appointment and “Miss Tabifa” asked me one simple question that erased all of my negativity.
“So, how was Eloise the other night during the thunderstorm??”
What? Wait… pause… collect self… think….
She was great. Oh my god. She did great!!!
In that moment, I realized it was time for me to withhold my mama bear instinct, to stop being so over protective and demanding, to stop wishing for mountains when my child is making molehills. Eloise is improving. Maybe she hasn’t met her long term goal, but she’s working towards change. During that thunderstorm, she didn’t vomit. She didn’t panic. She didn’t obsess and go absolutely bonkers. She looked at the dark clouds, told me a storm was rolling in, asked me if I’d keep her safe, and then she posed for a picture. A mother fucking picture. I’ve been so used to preparing for the worst that I’ve missed seeing the little improvements this sweet girl has made.
Since play therapy began, Eloise has gone from vomiting during storms to watching the sky and checking the radar while educating herself on maintaining safety during storms. Eloise has gone from panic attacks when she hears loud noises to stopping in her tracks and asking for identification on what the noise is she just heard. Eloise has gone from having meltdowns when she wants to play in another room from which I’m in to walking upstairs alone to get her “Sally (blanket)” off the bed. Eloise has gone from having urine accidents to taking herself to the bathroom and turning on the light to pee. These tasks seem so small. So incredibly simple. But in our world, it’s mountains. Huge fucking mountains… and I wasn’t even taking a moment out of my life to see it.
Eloise Grace has a long way to go, don’t get me wrong. She still struggles with sleeping independently, but can be soothed more easily. She still wakes frequently in the night, but isn’t vomiting as often. I’m still sleeping in her room… in her bed, but I’m enjoying the extra snuggles. She continues to struggle with the need to be in control, but she plays much better with her sister. She hates getting her hands dirty, but will continue to explore when necessary…. Eloise continues to have her daily struggles…
But she’s moving forward… and that’s all she needs… that’s all we need… because after all, she’s our precious little girl. Eloise is fun. She’s smart. She’s quirky and creative. She’s independent and strong willed. She’s absolutely hilarious and brights such light to our world. Her gut wrenching chuckles stop me in my tracks and erases all of the struggles I live with on a daily basis. She reminds me that life is short, and that I should cherish every moment with her. Yes, being the mother of Eloise has brought it’s fair of struggles, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
#EloiseGrace, I love you, sweet girl.